|Publication number||US5947496 A|
|Application number||US 08/942,512|
|Publication date||Sep 7, 1999|
|Filing date||Oct 2, 1997|
|Priority date||May 2, 1997|
|Also published as||CA2236539A1, DE19819514A1|
|Publication number||08942512, 942512, US 5947496 A, US 5947496A, US-A-5947496, US5947496 A, US5947496A|
|Inventors||Kenneth G. Kraft, Jeffrey L. Kincaid|
|Original Assignee||American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (9), Referenced by (21), Classifications (13), Legal Events (6)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/045,467, filed May 2, 1997.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a vehicle front wheel suspension construction and more particularly to an idler arm structure and improved bearing assembly for use in the wheel suspension construction.
2. Background of the Invention
In conventional application, the idler arm of a steering linkage is ideally pivotally mounted on vehicle superstructure in such a way as to provide free rotation about a fixed axis. For optimum geometric accuracy, the bearing which establishes the axis of rotation should completely resist any tendency of the idler arm to deflect in any plane other than one normal to the axis of a fixed pivot. Performance factors typically analyzed for the idler arm joint include torque, lash, and long term durability. The torque of an idler arm joint, commonly referred to as functional torque, is the torque necessary for pivoting the idler arm about the support. Lash is the axial movement of the idler arm relative to the support while durability deals with the normal tendency of an idler arm joint to wear in use such that a degree of slackness gradually arises which tends to reduce the accuracy of the steering geometry.
Attempts have been made to utilize plastic bearings in the idler arm joints. One common problem with the plastic bearings is the loss of press-fit which leads to premature wear, lash, and sealing problems. The tendency for plastic to creep under stress causes the loss of the press-fit. The stress is caused by steering loads and by the press-fit itself.
The use of compression springs to take up axial lash has also been utilized in prior idler arm joints. The main problem with using springs to take up axial lash is obtaining a spring that is stiff enough not to deflect under loading, but forgiving enough to provide consistent torque. Another problem exists in locating a bearing surface for the spring.
Other attempts have been made at using a nut and a corresponding assembly torque to axially de-lash an idler arm joint. This method has been proven both analytically and experimentally very difficult to control torque. This is in large part due to the small variations in nut assembly torque which cause large variations in functional joint torque. Another problem with this method is nut retention. The nut assembly torque must be very low in order to maintain low idler arm functional torque. Since the assembly torque is too low to generate the proper thread stress and clamping forces, additional means of maintaining nut retention need to be added. This leads to very complicated designs.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a low lash, low torque steering linkage idler arm joint. The present invention utilizes steel-backed composite, flanged journal bushings, which are press-fit into the idler arm. The unique method which is utilized eliminates axial joint lash while maintaining a consistent and low turning torque. The present invention uses the assembly of the flange nut onto the idler shaft support member to axially position the bushings in their final position. This method eliminates the negative effects of axial dimensional stack-up variations that can lead to inconsistency in turning torque.
The composite bushings provided according to the present invention have a higher unit loading capability and reduced coefficient of friction as compared to the plastic bushings conventionally used. A main advantage of the composite bushings utilized with the present invention is that they will not lose their press-fit during their service life.
The present invention utilizes seals which act somewhat as springs as they support the flanged journal bushings. The compressed seals are stiff enough under compression not to deflect under loading, but forgiving enough to provide consistent functional torque.
Further areas of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description provided hereinafter. It should be understood however that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention, are intended for purposes of illustration only, since various changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this detailed description.
The present invention will become more fully understood from the detailed description and the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is side-elevational view, partly in section with parts broken away, of an idler arm assembly according to the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an expanded sectional view of area 2 as shown in FIG. 1, illustrating the lower seal assembly;
FIG. 3 is an expanded sectional view of area 3 as shown in FIG. 1, illustrating the upper seal assembly;
FIG. 4 is a plan view of a bushing according to the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the bushing taken along line 5--5 of FIG. 4; and
FIG. 6 is a detailed enlarged view of the area 6 as shown in FIG. 4.
With reference to FIGS. 1-6, the idler arm assembly 10 of the present invention will be described. The idler arm assembly 10 includes an idler arm 12 having a free end 14 and a hub 16 at the other end thereof. The hub 16 includes a straight cylindrical bore 18 which terminates in annular surfaces 20 and 24 at the top and bottom, respectively, of the hub 16.
The idler arm 12 is mounted to a support 26. Support 26 includes a bracket portion 28 provided with mounting holes 30, 32 provided for mounting the support 26 to the vehicle. Support 26 also includes a bolt portion 34 which is provided with a threaded end portion 36 which receives a flange nut 38 thereon.
Upper and lower bushings 40, 42 are press-fit into cylindrical bore 18. The bolt portion 34 of support 26 is inserted through upper and lower bushings 40, 42. Upper and lower bushings 40, 42 are provided with grooves 44, as best seen in FIGS. 4-6, which help provide an adequate supply of lubricant to the bushings. The number of grooves 44 can be varied. As shown in FIG. 4, three grooves 44 are provided in the bushing 40, each spaced 120 degrees from one another. The bushings 40, 42 are each provided with a flange 46 which extends radially outward from the cylindrical body 48.
According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the bushings 40, 42 are formed of three main elements that form a steel-backed composite. The bushings 40 include a steel backing which gives the composite bushing material high load carrying capacity. The steel backing also allows a thin, compact design including excellent heat dissipation and dimensional and structural rigidity. The bushings 40, 42 are provided with a porous bronze inner structure. The porous bronze inner structure includes a layer of carefully sized bearing quality bronze powder which is sintered onto the steel backing. The porous bronze inner structure is then impregnated with a homogeneous mixture of polytetrafluorolethylene (PTFE) and lead. In addition to providing maximum thermal conductivity away from the bearing surface, the unique inner structure serves as a reservoir for the PTFE-lead mixture. The PTFE-lead overlay provides an initial transfer film which effectively coats the mating surface of the bearing assembly, forming an oxide-type lubricant film. As the film is depleted, the relative motion of the mating surface continues to draw material from the porous bronze layer. When conditions are severe, the feed of lubrication is increased. The peaks of bronze coming in contact with the mating surface generate localized heat. This, due to the high thermal expansion rate of the PTFE, forces additional lubricant to the bearing surface. The relative motion of the mating parts wipes the lubricant over the interface, continuously restoring the low friction surface film. The steel-backed composite used for bushings 40, 42 is commercially available from Garlock Bearings, Inc.
An upper seal assembly 50 is provided between the flange 46 of upper bushing 40 and top surface 20 of idler arm 12. Upper seal assembly 50 is provided with a steel reinforcement ring 52 which is covered with an elastomeric portion 54. Elastomeric portion 54 includes a body portion which surrounds reinforcement ring 52 and two radially extending sealing portions 56, 58. Sealing portion 56 is provided with a plurality of serrated ribs 59 which engage an annular surface 60 of support 26. Seal portion 58 of upper seal assembly 50 is similarly provided with serrated ridges 61 which engage the top surface of idler arm hub 16. In assembly, the steel reinforcement ring 52 is disposed between the flange 46 of upper bushing 40 and top surface 20 of idler arm hub 16.
With reference to FIG. 2, a lower seal assembly 66 is provided with the same configuration as the upper seal assembly 50. Accordingly, a detailed description of lower seal assembly 66 is unnecessary except to note that seal portion 56 is disposed against an upper surface 68 of flange nut 38, and seal portion 58 is disposed against bottom surface 24 of idler arm hub 16. Further, steel enforcement ring 52 is disposed between the flange 46 of lower bushing 42 and bottom surface 24 of idler arm hub portion 16.
Free end 14 of idler arm 12 supports a stud member 70 which is connected to an intermediate link of a steering system, not shown.
During assembly, the upper seal assembly 50 is slid over the cylindrical body 48 of upper bushing 40 so that the seal assembly 50 is disposed next to flange 46. The upper bushing is then press-fit into the cylindrical bore 18 of idler arm hub 16. Approximately 800 pounds of force is necessary to press-fit the upper composite bushing 40 into the cylindrical bore 18. The lower seal assembly 66 is slid over the cylindrical body 48 of lower bushing 42 so that the lower seal assembly 66 is disposed next to the flange 46. The lower bushing 42 is then partially inserted into the cylindrical bore 18 of idler arm hub 16. The bolt portion 34 of support 26 is then inserted into the cylindrical bore 18 so that the annular surface 60 of support 26 is disposed against seal portion 56 of upper seal assembly 50. The flange nut 38 is then threadedly engaged with the threaded end portion 36 of bolt portion 34. The flange nut 38 is tightened until the upper surface 68 of flange nut 38 engages a shoulder 72 (as shown in FIG. 2) of bolt portion 34. Shoulder 72 is provided with a generally flat surface. As the flange nut 38 is tightened, the lower bushing 42 is continually pressed into cylindrical bore 18. When the upper surface 68 of flange nut 38 engages the shoulder 72 of bolt portion 34, the upper and lower bushings 40, 42 are automatically assembled to their final position. The use of the assembly of the flange nut 38 to axially position the upper and lower bushings in their final position eliminates axial joint lash while maintaining a consistent and low turning torque. After the flange nut 38 is assembled to engage the shoulder 72 of bolt portion 34, the exposed threads of the threaded end portion 36 are deformed in order to prevent the disassembly of the joint.
In the assembled condition, a fill cavity 74 is provided around the periphery of the bolt portion 34, as shown in FIG. 1. A lubricant fitting 76 is provided in communication with the fill cavity 74. Lubricant is delivered to the fill cavity 74 via the lubricant fitting 76. From the fill cavity 74, lubricant passes through the grooves 44 provided in the bushings 40, 42 so that the bearing surface is properly lubricated. The lubricant is continually inserted until grease purges at the top and bottom of the joint assembly.
The present invention utilizes a unique method which totally eliminates axial joint lash while maintaining a consistent and low turning torque. The method provides for the assembly of the flange nut onto the bolt portion to axially position the bushings in their final position. This method eliminates the negative effects of axial dimensional stack-up variations which result in inconsistent functional torque.
The invention being thus described, it will be obvious that the same may be varied in many ways. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the spirit and scope of the invention, and all such modifications as would be obvious to one skilled in the art are intended to be included within the scope of the following claims.
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|U.S. Classification||280/93.508, 384/296, 384/147, 403/163, 74/579.00F|
|International Classification||B62D7/00, B62D7/16|
|Cooperative Classification||Y10T403/32967, B62D7/16, Y10T74/2163, B62D7/00|
|European Classification||B62D7/00, B62D7/16|
|Jan 12, 1998||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: AMERICAN AXLE & MANUFACTURING, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:KRAFT, KENNETH G.;KINCAID, JEFFREY L.;REEL/FRAME:008917/0415
Effective date: 19971204
|Sep 10, 2001||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: CHASE MANHATTAN BANK, AS COLLATERAL AGENT, THE, NE
Free format text: SUPPLEMENT TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY SECURITY AGREE;ASSIGNORS:AMERICAN AXLE & MANUFACTURING, INC.;MSP INDUSTRIES CORPORATION;COLFOR MANUFACTURING, INC.;REEL/FRAME:012177/0112
Effective date: 20010815
|Jan 27, 2003||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Feb 5, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: AMERICAN AXLE & MANUFACTURING, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT RELEASE;ASSIGNOR:JPMORGAN CHASE BANK;REEL/FRAME:014926/0190
Effective date: 20040116
|Jan 3, 2007||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|Mar 3, 2011||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 12